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Ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge Open Talks on Potential Merger

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File image courtesy Port of Antwerp

By The Maritime Executive 10-18-2019 07:12:04

The port authorities of Antwerp and Zeebrugge have given the green light to start negotiations on the possibility of a merger between the two ports. The decision is based on a complementarity study conducted by the consultancy firm Deloitte and the Belgian law firm Laga.

Zeebrugge is a hub for intra-Europe short-sea shipping services, and about 80 percent of its trade is with other ports in Europe and Scandinavia. It is one of the world's busiest ro/ro ports, handling about 2.8 million cars per year. 

By contrast, Antwerp is primarily a deep-sea port. The majority of its trade is with ports outside of Europe and Scandinavia, especially Asia, the Middle East and the Americas. With about 11 million TEU per year, it ranks 14th on the list of the world's busiest container ports, and it can berth the largest boxships in the world. 

The two ports have been in talks about the potential for deeper cooperation since early 2018, and they awarded a study contract to external consultants in order to examine the benefits of a merger. The study found that under current arrangements, inter-port competition limited the ability of the two ports to realize gains from cooperation. However, the ports have a high degree of complementarity, and they face the same external challenges. Their customers broadly support deep integration, which could improve the ports' mutual ability to compete on the global marketplace, adapt to change and pursue growth. 

In order to realize these gains, the study recommended a merger or a new holding structure. The talks on the details are expected to proceed gradually over the course of the next two years. 

"The ambition of both port authorities is to form a 'main port from A to Z' which is 'future-proof'. Based on the growing confidence and the positive findings of the research report, we have started the formal discussions," said Dirk De fauw, chairman of the board for the port of Zeebrugge.